When shopping in the former Soviet Union it is common for the customer to bring your own bag to the store. Western grocery stores provide plastic bags as a convenience, building the nominal cost into the price of goods. However in a Russian supermarket is it customary to provide your own пакет. That word is “packet” and how Russians say bag, or the packet, in which you carry things home from the market.
A convenient way to carry groceries and other items is to bring several cloth shopping bags with you. These are popular but still not as common so be prepared to give them away as gifts before you leave. Cloth bags make it easy to carry groceries on the Metro or on the bus.
Of course a Russian supermarket will have plastic bags if you failed to bring your own, but you’ll pay a small fee for the bag and most shoppers carry an extra plastic bag or two in a pocket or purse. A cashier may ask “пакет нужен” which is a way to inquire if you need a packet/bag. If you don’t need a bag you may respond with нет спасибо (“nyet spasiba”) which means “no thanks” but if you need a bag(s), then да пожалуйста (“da pazhulusta”) meaning “yes, please” is the best answer.
In most Russian supermarkets, the large superstores being the exception, you’ll bag your own items after paying the cashier. At small neighborhood markets or street kiosks one runs the risk of carrying vegetables home in your pockets unless you brought your own bag.
Finally, be sure to check expiration dates on supermarket items. Often only one date, the production date, is stamped to indicate when the item was produced. If you see two dates, then the manufacturer has stamped the production date and the expiration date.